Modern interpretations of 3DRealms classic first person shooter games have left us with a bitter taste in our mouth, the long-awaited Duke Nukem Forever turned out to be, how to put this, less than what we wanted or expected. It was with trepidation that I heard the news of a Shadow Warrior reboot, Shadow Warrior was the lesser known cousin of Duke Nukem, it was the hipster’s over the top violent game. After getting a few chances to preview it and then finally get my hands on a full release for review I can safely say I Love Wang.
To be honest my cheap attempt at a junk joke there is probably a sign I’ve been playing Shadow Warrior too much, with a main character called Lo Wang who answers the phone in the opening cut-scene by saying ‘You got Wang!’ it probably isn’t surprising to hear that this game probably isn’t going to cause Twitter debates over whether it’s the Citizen Kane of gaming.
Lo Wang is the protagonist of Shadow Warrior, a low-level lackey for a Triad family caught in the middle of something way beyond his comprehension; gangland warfare, demons and Chinese mythology all come together and smush into a nice little slice of chaos. initially armed with just a pistol and a katana you must defend yourself again angry Chinese men in suits and angry Chinese demons in loin clothes, neither particularly like you.
As I suggested previously this game isn’t high brow, the writing is juvenile and the gore is over the top and, with a katana involved, quite ‘slicey’. Enemies erupt into fountains of blood with a well placed special move, with a simple charged attack you can turn a Triad member into that guy from that Metallica video, you know, that one with the guitars. [I am fully aware the video features extracts from Johnny got His Gun and the song was One].
The game is true to its roots, the 1997 was full of puerile humour and fast paced action, it’s not here to win awards for writing, it’s more an opportunity for the game to give you a reason to embrace the hyper violence. Like an elastic band plane you are wound up tight and given a direction, from there on you are just mowing down anything that stands in your way.
Though it stays true to its ‘origin’ this Lo Wang is more of a spiritual fighter than before, when you partner up with a demon in the early mission he provides you with a jump-start for your inner powers. Now you are able to level powers like a super strike, an arc attack or levitate your enemies giving you the chance to play meaty piñata. Mix with these powers your classic 1997 gameplay style of bunny hopping and strafing and you feel like this game is how a remake of a classic first person shooter is supposed to be done. It’s not bogged down in its source material, it uses it for inspiration and concept rather than strict track to follow. This isn’t just an HD make over of your teen years.
The game isn’t perfect, no game is, the controls for powers are generally awful, double tapping a particular direction before pressing another button isn’t immersive and often either doesn’t trigger or triggers unintentionally. I also found that whilst the game is quite linear I did get lost on numerous occasions wonder which of the doors I should be heading to. A glowing golden door handle is there as an indicator but this alone in a bamboo woodland isn’t helpful.
The original game was one of my favourite first person shooters as a young adult, between that and Blood I had a rather disturbed upbringing game-wise. Back then it was the naughtiness that drew me in, the excessive gore, the explosions and the hentai ladies hidden behind walls taking a bath, now the game doesn’t feel as naughty, but that’s ok. Times have changed and Duke’s abortion levels and twin blow jobs just don’t cut the mustard, it’s like a drunk uncle trying to hard at a party, Shadow Warrior manages to grow old and reinvent itself with some dignity. There are still dick, fart, hentai and gore jokes, but they’re dont with enough of a nod and a wink to keep them the right side of interesting. I was slightly put out a couple of times by the use of racial humour, accents and stereotypes just aren’t clever enough but other times this is played perfectly, like the sage advice of the fortune cookies.
The levels are wonderfully designed and juxtapose the violence and horror before you. The opening level in a Triad owned temple is beautiful and wonderfully lit. The cherry blossoms outside with the green grass are gorgeous only to be ruined by me putting seven shades of crimson over the roots of the tree.
If you played the original then you need to play this, it hasn’t reinvented the wheel, it’s gone with what the original was known for. Weak controls and some occasional level design issues hold it back but the strength is in its simplicity. Serious Sam is the easiest comparison to make, you are handed a weapon and told to kill, that’s it. If you need something puerile that doesn’t take itself seriously then Shadow Warrior is your game, an office stress toy of a game that allows you to go mental without trying to hammer home a message or be overly ironic. All I ask now is that someone does this quality of work on a Blood remake!